11July2020

Leslie Desmond: A Biography

Leslie grew up in rural Vermont and Massachusetts in the 1950s and 60's.

She  learned about her first horse from a neighbor who was educated in the "old school." She trained the horses that she rode in regional jumping competitions and local gymkhana events, and then went on to coach children and new horse owners in the basics of riding and horse care. After high school, she worked at a number show barns, racing stables and small breeding establishments on the east coast and Midwest USA.

After starting her first small string  -- 2 large unridden ponies and a badly started horse -- in 1965, Leslie devoted most of her time since then to helping horses and their owners ever since. Among these were the troubled horses from showing, farming, and racing that others had given up on... Off-trackThoroughbred and Standardbreds, show ponies, draft horses, jumpers, dressage horses, stock and reining horses, and a wide range of backyard pleasure horses. None were turned away.    

In 1990, Leslie relocated her riding school to Novato, California, where she founded Diamond Lu Productions and released her first three-volume video series, "American Horsemanship for Young & Old". She was inspired to produce the best-selling "how-to" horsemanship series for beginners by her most influential childhood mentor, Ivan Taylor, a retired World War I cavalry officer from Manchester, Vermont . 

"Ivan was in his mid-90s when I met him and the sessions we had back in the early 1960s prepared me to fully enjoy my work with people and horses in the decades that followed. Ivan's gentle approach also prepared me to recognize the priceless gift that the late Bill Dorrance (1906 - 1999) - the legendary horseman and rancher from Salinas, California - left for those of us who want to work with our horses through feel," Leslie said.

During the last years of his life, Bill asked Leslie to accept his guidance during a 4-year apprenticeship while she recorded his knowledge and experiences for posterity. Between 1995 and 1999 they trained horses together, put on demonstrations and held clinics around Monterey County, California, while she co-wrote the classic text, "True Horsemanship Through Feel". 

The sequel to their book, a 10-CD audio book (102 tracks in an easy, A_Z format)  called "Horse Handling and Riding Through Feel" that Leslie published in 2006, is an info-packed guide to better horsemanship through feel.

"It was my hope to ease the serious horseman's journey by creating an easy learning avenue," she said. "My dream is that horse enthusiasts and trainers from all disciplines will consider and take on board the finer points of feel and release as they continue down life's winding road...hopefully, in the company of a good horse."

Leslie now works exclusively with trainers and horse owners who want to advance their handling, riding and training skills in the classic way Bill Dorrance handled and trained his own horses for ranch work, compeition and any job there was a need for them to do. 

She will demonstrate the way she achieves successful, stress-free basics that lead quickly to refinement in advanced maneuvers...without the use of restraint devices, force, punishment, excessive drilling or hand-fed treats to achieve understanding, submission and obedience. 

If you want to learn this approach, but do not have an opportunity to attend the public or private events scheduled throughout the year, you can register for online coaching at   https://www.feelofahorse.com/coaching-with-leslie-desmond. Custom program to suit each horse and rider; online film review and or streaming video.  

Horse training seminars and demonstrations in the US and Europe can be found at this link: https://lesliedesmond.com/topschedule/clinic-schedule.